Analyzing bicyclists’ behavior

A lot eyes fairly rolled in the cycling community when Talk of the Nation announced it would have a segment on today’s show asking whether bicyclists are their own worst enemy.

The topic is a minefield for anyone to wade into; they don’t come much more emotional as we’ve found on NewsCut a number of times.

Spawning today’s show was Bill Strickland, the editor-at-large for Bicycling Magazine, which published a piece in the latest issue, “We Met the Enemy.” The article details the fight between pedestrians and cyclists over more bike lanes in New York.

It theorizes that when bikes are few, protestations about occasional rule-breaking are also few. But now, cycling has increased, requiring more self-enforcement.


Tom Vanderbilt, author of the New York Times bestseller Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us), said, “A Harvard researcher talks about the ‘four stages’ of social norm change: silly, controversial, progressive, then obvious. In the first stage, we had a sort of reflexive denial: New York isn’t Europe, that won’t work here, etc. I think we’re somewhere between the second and third stage when it comes to cycling in New York; opponents are finding they can’t make viable arguments against cycling as a transportation mode on safety or traffic-flow reasons, so now it’s more about the left-wing, Copenhagenizing cabal.”

In the fourth stage, Vanderbilt explained as I joined him on a weekend ride out of the city to the pretty town of Nyack, on the Hudson River, changes such as bike lanes are widely considered not just positive elements but so desirable as to be obvious needs.

Vanderbilt is also on today’s show.